17-Aug-2004 -- Imram is a 12.50m
aluminum sailboat, the prototype of a new series: the Integral . She has been
designed to sail fast and safely in the unforgiving arctic waters,
zig-zagging between icebergs (Picture #2) should need be.
After a successful travel in 2003 from France to the uncharted waters
of Greenland, and a winter spent in Iceland, in summer 2004 we sailed
from Iceland to Norway and eventually to remote Svalbard. On the plan,
together with mountaineering in the wilderness, wildlife sighting and
sailing as far north as you can, was also confluence visiting. A sailboat
is indeed a wonderful and environment-friendly confluence-visiting tool in that it gives access to
many of those magic, round-number, intersections which are at sea, in
places ofter unreachable with any other transport.
Among such confluences on water, among stunning landscapes, we had
remarked 79N12E, which was close to our planned route around
Spitzberg, just inside scenic Kongsfjorden.
We knew 79N12E had already been visited, but this happened in winter,
when the sea inside the fjord is frozen and the previous visitor could
drive a motor sledge to the point. We decided to visit this site in
summer, in the small time-window in which there is no ice in the
fjord, so as to capture a completely different scenery.
Very light winds on August 17th, 2004, suggested the use of our
inboard engine. It was late afternoon, which means the sun was roughly
to the west, while during the night it was to the north and so on:
magic of the far north of the midnight sun! We were, since a few days,
on our way back South, after a failed attempt to circumnavigate the
Spitzberg island through stormy and icy Hinlopen strait, which we had
first to sail southward, get almost stuck in ice and, at the
perspective of a looooooooong winter there, then sail again
northward. After a few exhilarating mountain trips in the remote North
East of Svalbard, and outstanding food, the mood onboard was high and
it took no long discussions to agree for the confluence strategy.
Like for the other points before (69N16E, 70N20E, 80N14E and 80N16E)
and previous experience of the scriba in the Mediterranean (43N10E) it
was by now known that you do not stop nicely on such a point 10 tons
of sailboat loaded with eight crew members, food to face the
possibility of a winter trapped in ice, large amount of spares to face
almost all posssible reparations, enough medical material to face many
possible emergencies, and large amounts of mountaineering material. We
would have sailed straight through the confluence.
We therefore entered the fjord around 1330 UTC coming from the West,
easily reached the 79N, and slowly made our way East to the 20E. At a
given moment, we saw a large iceberg, probably calved off the huge
Blomstrandbreen glacier, right in front of us (Picture #3), but the
confluence was a few hundred meters before it, and we did not have to
hone our ice climbing skill -yet- to reach that point.
In a few minutes more we were on the magic spot, as the onboard GPS
promptly informed us (Picture #4). The scenery around us was simply
fantastic. To the East (Picture #3), and to the North (Picture #1) the
massive Blomstrandbreen, to the West (Picture #5) the mouth of the
fjord and the open sea. A most strange polished rock structure
(Picture #6) was to our South. Its name, Blomstrandhalvøya (Picture
#7) on a map of twenty years ago, told it was a peninsula and it was
clear that a day it had just appeared from below the glacier
responsible for its erosion. Later, we would have pushed East to give
a look to the point where this peninsula meets the glacier... to
discover that there was no such a point anymore. As a consequence of
the global warming which is melting the glaciers of our planet, the
Blomstrandbreen had retreated so much to transform the peninsula into an
How did we celebrate the confluence? We anchored, we reached the
Blomstrandbreen and we went for an exilarating ice-climbing session
below the midnight sun (Picture #8)!